Former decision-maker Dodd questions FIFA over Saudi tourism deal

MELBOURNE: Ex-Australia international and former FIFA Council member Moya Dodd has accused soccer’s governing body of a lack of understanding of the women’s game amid reports Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority will sponsor the Women’s World Cup.

Australia and New Zealand, co-hosts of this year’s tournament, wrote to FIFA on Wednesday seeking urgent clarification after the Guardian reported Visit Saudi will be named as a major sponsor of the event.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Dodd, one of the first women to serve on FIFA’s decision-making body, questioned the prospect of a commercial tie-up between the tournament and a country where gay sex is a criminal offence.

“There will be many LGBTQ+ players and fans at the Women’s World Cup for whom football is a place where they can express themselves,” Dodd, who played 24 times for Australia and who served on the FIFA Council from 2013 to 2016, wrote.

“If any of those fans are watching from Saudi Arabia, they will be living with grave risks.

“For FIFA to tell LGBTQ players and fans they should ‘Visit Saudi’ is to send them to a jurisdiction where they are regarded as criminals.

“FIFA would be selling them into persecution. It’s hard to imagine a greater mismatch for the unique and valuable audience the women’s game has accrued.”

FIFA and Visit Saudi have declined to comment on sponsorship of the World Cup, which will be held from July 20 to August 20.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has introduced reforms allowing women greater control over their lives in recent years but men still retain a tight grip on power in the kingdom.

The Gulf state was named host nation of the 2027 Asian Cup on Wednesday and also has ambitions of hosting the World Cup in 2030 as well as the Women’s Asian Cup in 2026.

Dodd wrote that, while she supported efforts to encourage the development of the women’s game in Saudi Arabia, FIFA needed to show a greater understanding of the female football community.

“I’m thrilled by the progress women’s football has made (in Saudi Arabia) in recent times,” she wrote.

“As a symbol of progress, it doesn’t get much more powerful than allowing women and girls to play the most popular sport in a football-mad nation.

“If FIFA is seriously proposing to these fans and players that they should ‘Visit Saudi’, then they profoundly misunderstand either their own community, or the laws in Saudi Arabia.”


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